Wo Zhi KanKan – I am Just Looking

Wo Zhi KanKan (I am Just Looking) (JiaShan, China) Copyright 2023 Douglas Stockdale

Another morning in which I woke up with a list of plans and just like Charlie Brown, I wonder off and find myself working on sometime different. I just can’t seem to stay on the reservation. That darn creative muse, eh?

I have come back to this body of work repeatedly that I created over three relatively short stays while on assignment in China back in 2007 and 2008. Needless to say, my pharmaceutical assignment was not to create a photographic body of work, nevertheless, on my free time, I wondered about continuously looking at this strange urban landscape while reflecting on the immense social changes driven by a very autocratic political system.

Thus, while considering some of my earlier work as potential subjects for cyanotype printing, I had created some digital faux cyanotype images from my artist book project, The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow. The psychological blue tonalities of the cyanotype prints I think resonate with my underlying ‘blue’ mood, which is consistent with this project. The title for that artist book was derived from my stay in China, which also incorporates images from the China body of work. At one time I had thought that a portfolio of my China photographs would have that same title.

Nevertheless, while in China, my back-up alternative project title has been Wo Zhi KanKan, which translates to the English “I am just looking”. I actually used that phrase more than once when photographing something when someone would approach me, probably more about the strange tall white (European appearing) guy who had a relatively large and complex camera taking pictures. Once I said this phrase while pointing at the urban subject, they would give me a big smile and continue on their way.

On reflection, my three trips into China is a reflection point on my artistic style. Initially I was all about just observing and photographing in a street photographer style. So in fact, I was just looking. My roadside remembrance project (In Passing) was in the midst of being published by LensWork (#74). Nevertheless, I found myself pushing beyond straight representation in my photography, seeking that emotional quotient, that ‘equivalence’ factor.

So this morning after creating a cyanotype print from my artist book (more about that shortly) body of work a couple of days ago, that maybe relooking at my China body of work as portfolio of cyanotype prints might be a possibility. The image above, created while walking JiaShan after a rare snow storm for this region, has always remained in the back of my mind. Funny, I did not recall that there was that much snow present at the time. Making the black and white conversion, adding my cyanotype adjustment curve and the faux cyanotype colors is resulting in a very interesting image that is even higher now on my cyanotype radar.

The blue appearance and resulting underlying mood of this image really resonates with me; probably more in line with what and how I was feeling while staying in China. It was a place that I did not understand and really really felt disconnected from home and my family, only now realizing that my separation anxiety was probably cranked up into high gear at the time.

Thinking back, for this part of China, these water ways were everywhere, which are the ancient highway of this regions industrial commerce and chief means of transportation. Thus, this urban landscape conjured some anthropologic speculation as to the slowly deteriorating conditions of most of these water ways (canals) I kept coming upon. These waterways for the most part were now obsolete and something of the past. Perhaps another aspect of melancholy that I was feeling while looking at this urban landscape that is indirectly present in this photograph. hmmmm. I need to check, but I am guessing I have a lot of these water way photographs in which these are in various states of decay. Food for more thought, eh?

Cheers & make every day an Earth Day



 The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow, an artist book from Singular Images Press, Fall 2022 release, $60.00 (CA sales tax for those residing in the USA) plus shipping expenses. Message me douglas.stockdale.artist@gmail.com or singularimagespress@gmail for shipping details and PayPal invoice.

Note: The Artist Special Edition (book + extra print) is Sold Out

Book workshop:

Southeast Center for Photography (SEC4P): Creative PhotoBook workshop, (Sold Out) a virtual event on Zoom; February 25, 26 & March 4 & 5th 2023; from 10am – 1 pm, EST (3 hour session each day, with a week between the weekend sessions to work your book-dummy). 


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